Pvt. Cecil Walter Kitchens
| Pvt. Cecil W.
Kitchens was born on September 24, 1917, in
Clarita, Oklahoma, to Clyde W. Kitchens & Lona
Lee Winchester-Kitchen. With his sister, he
lived at 108 West Local Avenue, Sayre, Oklahoma,
and earned a living by delivering ice for an ice
company. He was known as "Kitch" to his
On March 24, 1941, in Oklahoma City, Kitch was inducted into the U.S. Army and was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training. It was during his time at Ft. Knox that he qualified as a tank driver. Upon completing basic training, he was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, and assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion.
The 192nd had just taken part in maneuvers at Camp Polk and instead of returning to Ft. Knox as expected, they were kept at the fort. None of the members of the battalion had any idea why they were being held there. On the side of a hill, the battalion was informed that they were being sent overseas. They were told that this decision had been made by General George S. Patton. Those members of the battalion who were 29 years old or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service. It was at that time that Kitch joined the 192nd and assigned to A Company.
The company traveled by train to San Francisco, California, and were taken to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island, where they received inoculations and physicals. Those members of the battalion who were found to have treatable medical conditions remained behind on the island. They were scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date. Other men were simply replaced.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S. A. T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th. During this part of the trip, many of the tankers suffered from seasickness. Once they recovered, they spent their time breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP. The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
On Wednesday, November 5th, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes. It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and, another transport, the S. S. Calvin Coolidge. Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11th. During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line. On Saturday, November 15th, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon. The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off in the direction of the smoke. It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country.
When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day. At one point, the ships passed an island at night and did so in total blackout. This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way. The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning. At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized that they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field. He made sure that they had what they needed and that they received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner. Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg. The tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned to each tent. There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the end of the rows of tents.
For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons. The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea. They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance as they prepared to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
On December 1st, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. From this time on, two tank crew members remained with each tank at all times.
The morning of December 8, 1941, the members of A Company were informed of the Japanese attack on Clark Field. His tank and the others were sent to the perimeter of the airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. At 8:30, the American planes took off and filled the sky in every direction. They landed at noon, to be refueled, and were lined up, in a straight line, near the mess hall while the pilots went to lunch.
During lunch, the "replacements" were ordered to stay with the equipment while the original members of the battalion went to eat. The tankers were eating lunch when a formation of 54 planes was spotted approaching the airfield from the north. The tankers believed the planes were American. As they watched, raindrops fell from the planes. When bombs exploded on the runways, they knew the planes were Japanese.
When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield. Since the battalion's bivouac was near the main road between the fort and airfield, the soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks and trucks. Anything that could carry the wounded was in use. When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building. Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.
That night the soldiers had slept their last night in a bed. For protection, they slept under their tanks or in them.
Four days after the attack, on December 12th, the company was sent to the Barrio of Dau to protect a highway and railroad from sabotage. From there, the company was sent to join the other companies of the 192nd just south of the Agno River.
On December 23rd and 24th, the company was in the area of Urdaneta, where the tankers lost the company commander, Capt. Walter Write. After he was buried, the tankers made an end run to get south of Agno River. As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening. They successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
On December 25th, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th.
The 192nd and part of the 194th fell back to form a new defensive line the night of December 27th and 28th. From there they fell back to the south bank of the BamBan River which they were suppose to hold for as long as possible. The tanks were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th serving as a rear guard against the Japanese.
A Company was sent, in support of the 194th, to an area east of Pampanga. It was there that they lost a tank platoon commander, Lt. William Read. That night, on a road east of Zaragoza, on December 30th, the company was bivouacked for the night and posted sentries. The sentries heard a noise on the road and woke the other tankers who grabbed Tommy-guns and manned the tanks' machine guns. As they watched, a Japanese bicycle battalion rode into their bivouac. When the last bicycle passed the tanks, the tankers opened up on them. When they stopped firing, they had completely wiped out the bicycle battalion. To leave the area, the tankers drove their tanks over the bodies.
As the Filipino and American forces fell back toward Bataan, A Company took up a position near the south bank of the Gumain River the night of December 31st and January 1st. Believing that the Filipino Army was in front of them allowed the tankers to get some sleep. It was that night that the Japanese lunched an attack to cross the river.
As the Japanese attempted to advance they were cut down by the tankers. The tankers created gaping holes in their ranks. To lower their losses, the Japanese tried to cover their advance with a smoke screen. Since the wind was blowing against them, the smoke blew into the Japanese line. When the Japanese broke off the attack, they had lost about half their men.
From January 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape. It was also in January 1942, that the food ration was cut in half. It was not too long after this was done that malaria, dysentery, and dengue fever began hitting the soldiers. January that the food rations were cut in half. Not long after this, malaria, dysentery, and dengue fever soon spread among the soldiers.
A Company, was sent in support of the 194th, to an area east of Pampanga. At Guagua, A Company with the 11th Infantry Division, Philippine Army, attempted to make a counterattack against the Japanese. Somehow, the Filipinos mistook the tanks as Japanese and accurately used mortars on them knocking out three tanks. A Company rejoined the 194th east of Guagua.tanks were often the last units to disengage from the enemy and form a new defensive line as American and Filipino units withdrew toward Bataan. The night of January 7th, A Company was awaiting orders to cross the last bridge into Bataan over the Culis Creek. The engineers were ready to blow up the bridge, but the battalion's commanding officer, Lt. Col. Ted Wickord, ordered the engineers to wait until he had looked to see if they were anywhere in sight. He found the company, asleep in their tanks, because they had not received the order to withdraw across the bridge. After they had crossed, the bridge was destroyed.
While American and Filipino forces were withdrawing from Pilar-Bigac Line, the battalion prevented the Japanese from overrunning the position and cutting off the withdrawing troops. The morning of January 27th, a new battle line had been formed and all units were suppose to be beyond it. That morning, the tanks were still holding their position six hours after they were suppose to have withdrawn. While holding the position, the tanks, with self-propelled mounts, ambushed, at point blank range, three Japanese units causing 50 percent casualties.
On January 28th, the tank battalions were given the job of protecting the beaches. The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast. The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings. They also took part in the Battle of the Pockets and the Battle of the Points.
The tankers were able to hold up the Japanese for several weeks slowing them down in their conquest of the Philippines. At some point, Kitchens was nominated for the Silver Star.
The company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets. The Japanese offensive had been stopped and two groups of Japanese soldiers were trapped behind the main line of defense. The tanks were sent in to help eliminate the pockets. The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket. Another tank did not enter the pocket until the tank, which had been relieved, had left the pocket.
To wipe out the Japanese two methods were employed. The first method was to have three Filipino soldiers sit on the back of the tanks with sacks of hand grenades. When the Japanese dove back into their foxholes, the tank would go over it and the soldiers would drop three hand grenades into the foxhole. Since the ordnance was from World War I, one out of three hand grenades would usually explode.
The second method was simple. The tank was parked with one track across the foxhole. The driver gave power to the opposite track and spun the tank dragging the other track. The tank dug into the dirt until the Japanese soldiers were dead.
The soldiers were hungry and began to eat everything they could get their hands on to eat. The Carabao were tough but if they were cooked long enough they could be eaten. They also began to eat horse meat provided by the 26th U. S. Cavalry. To make things worse, the soldiers' rations were cut in half again on March 1, 1942. This meant that they only ate two meals a day.
The Japanese also were dropping surrender leaflets with a scantly clad blond on them. The Japanese would have been more successful at getting the Americans to surrender if the picture had been hamburger, since the men were so hungry that they most likely would have surrendered for a good meal. During the Battle of the Points, on March 2nd and 3rd, the tanks were sent in to wipe out Japanese troops that had landed on points of land behind the main defensive line and trapped behind the line after the Filipino and American Cut them off. Both pockets were wiped out.
The company's last bivouac area was about twelve kilometers north of Marivales and looking out on the China Sea. By this point, the tankers knew that there was no help on the way. Many had listened to Secretary of War Harry L. Stimson on short wave. When asked about the Philippines, he said, "There are times when men must die." The soldiers cursed in response because they knew that the Philippines had already been lost.
On April 4, 1942, the Japanese launched a attack supported by artillery and aircraft. A large force of Japanese troops came over Mount Samat and descended down the south face of the volcano. This attack wiped out two divisions of defenders and left a large area of the defensive line open to the Japanese. When General King saw that the situation was hopeless, he initiated surrender talks with the Japanese.
The night of April 8, 1942, the members of A Company circled their tanks. Each tank fired one armor piercing shell into the engine of the tank in front of it. The tankers next opened up the gasoline valves and dropped hand grenades into the turrets. The next morning at 7:00 A.M. they became Prisoners of War.
The POWs made their way north from Mariveles. The first five miles of the march were uphill. At one point, the members of the company had to run past Japanese artillery firing on Corregidor. They received little water and little food. When they reached San Fernando, they were put into a bull pen. In one corner of the bull pen was a trench the POWs were suppose to use as a washroom. The surface of the trench was alive with maggots. How long they remained in the bull pen is not known.
The Japanese ordered the POWs to form ranks. They were marched to the train stationed and packed into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane. Each car could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese packed 100 POWs into each car. Those who died remained standing since there was no place for them to fall. At Capas, the living left the cars and the dead fell to the floors. They walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base. There was one water faucet for the entire camp. Men literally died for a drink. The death rate in the camp began to rise until as many as 55 men dying each day. The burial detail worked non-stop to bury the dead. Often, when they returned the next morning, the wild dogs had dug up the bodies or the bodies were sitting up in their graves.
After arriving in the camp, Kitch was one of the POWs who returned to Bataan to collect scrap metal. On the detail, Kitch drove a truck with scrap metal to Manila. When the detail he was on ended he was sent to the Cabanatuan POW Camp which had opened to reduce the death rate among the POWs.
While in the camp, he worked in a garden that grew food for the Japanese mess. He and other POWs grew the food, but none of it went to them. One day after returning from working, he stacked his hoe in a pile, The guard began yelling at him. Apparently, he should have started a new stack of hoes. The guarh hit Kitch in the mouth with his bayonet and cut off part of his upper lip. The POWs used wet pages of bible to treat the wound.
At that time, Kitch was selected to go to Manila and work on what was called the Port Area Detail. The detail had been created in June 1942 with 225 POWs. The POWs were used as stevedores to load and unload ships. The POWs were first housed in a warehouse which was poorly lit and ventilated. The bathroom and kitchen facilities were also poor. The Japanese finally housed the POWs in the Port Terminal Building across the street from Pier 7.
During his time as a POW, Kitch, at various times, had dysentery, beriberi, malaria , and malnutrition. He became so ill, at one point, that he was sent to the hospital ward at Bilibid Prison on November 6, 1943, and admitted to the ward. It was during this time that he became friends with Dr. Paul Ashton. He was discharged from the hospital on June 21, 1944, and sent to what was called, "The Well Group" at the prison.
It is known that Kitch was still at Bilibid at the beginning of 1945. On February 3rd, the Japanese commander told the ranking American officer that they were leaving the prison and that the POWs should stay inside. That night the POWs posted guards and waited.
The POWs heard the sound of someone attempting to get into the prison through the window. The plywood was torn from the window and American soldiers of the 148th Infantry Regiment came through the window. At first the POWs thought that the soldiers were Japanese sent to kill them. One reason they did not recognize the Americans was that the POWs did not recognize the uniforms, but they celebrated when they saw that the soldiers were Americans. The POWs were trucked to a shoe factory, for their own safety, since Manila was still a battlefield.
The former POWs were taken to a rest area where they remained for ten days. At that time, Kitch was assigned to the 12th Replacement Battalion which was made up of liberated POWs. At the end of ten days, the POWs boarded the S.S. Monterey which arrived at San Francisco on March 16, 1945. Upon arriving there, the POWs were taken to Letterman General Hospital but it is not known how long he stayed there. After returning home, he learned from his sister that both his parents had died while he was POW. In his mother's case, just one day before he was liberated.
He was transferred to Borden General Hospital in Chichasha, Oklahoma. During this time, he was given furloughs home but had to return to the hospital. Kitch remained remained in the hospital for about five months.
At some point he married, May Lou Gregory, and received a 90 day leave home. Kitch became the father of a son and spent the rest of his life in Oklahoma. According his family, his health never really recovered from his time as a POW.
After the war, Kitch worked at various jobs. He became a wheat farmer, raised Hereford cattle, drove heavy equipment, and ran a milk distributorship. He also contracted to extend runways at Clinton-Sherman Air Force Base.
Ceceil W. Kitchens passed away on November 18, 1967, in Sayre, Oklahoma, and was buried at Sayre-Doxey Cemetery, in Sayre.